Chungking Mansions: Hong Kong’s tourist slum

At last, I was to fulfill one of my dreams, to visit Hong Kong. My friend and I decided to visit the “Pearl of the Orient” during a month-long South East Asia backpacking trip. Compared to most other countries in this region, Hong Kong is a lot more expensive. Since we were traveling on a modest budget, we had to reduce the costs, so this meant staying in the cheapest accommodation possible. My only requirement was a private room, I could never handle a hostel, I appreciate my privacy too much. It quickly became clear that we had just one option, a guesthouse within the Chungking Mansions. I heard a lot about it beforehand, its infamous reputation excited me..

The Chungking Mansion is a huge building, with 17 floors and five blocks. As a whole it contains hundreds of low-budget guesthouses, as well as many cafes and shops. Many immigrants from South Asia, Africa and The Middle East live and work here. The vibe is very multicultural. Unfortunately, the building is dangerous. No fire exit system is in place and the building is poorly maintained. It looks and feels like a slum, also it has the cities cheapest accommodation, by far! The location is great too.

From the airport we took the A21 bus, which stops just outside the mansions entrance. Literally, the second we got off the bus, an Indian man approached us. He owned one of the many guesthouses within the mansion, and near begged us to look at his available rooms. Since we needed a room, and were too tired to shop around, we went with him to his guesthouse. He guided us to the rather precarious looking elevators, which we rode up to the 14th floor. This is an experience we choose not to repeat, to preserve our lives. Instead, the stairs would have to do.

Such a lovely view from our window

Such a lovely view from our window

He then enthusiastically showed us around his guesthouse, the New Delhi Inn. First impression, the room appeared an adequate and acceptable place to sleep. My friend had proved quite good at haggling and managed to get a third off the price of our stay, we paid 250 HKD ($32, £20) for each night, cheaper than I had expected. Naturally, as soon as we parted with our money, we found many issues, cockroaches, dirty towels, concrete pillows and stained bed sheets. The owner of this squalid guesthouse had quickly vanished into thin air.. we never did see him again.

The next morning we were abruptly awoken by someone knocking on our door. To my surprise, I had opened the door to a crying prostitute. She had spent the night in the room opposite us, check-out time was here and she didn’t wish to leave yet. Why? because she was not dressed appropriately for the cities conservative streets, at least not in daylight. Since her English was poor, she requested I call the Guesthouse owner for her. After trying many numbers I finally got in contact with a friend of the owner, who happened to have his own Guesthouse two floors down. We then had to escort this Lady to him, since she was too unstable to do so herself.

A young Russian man had seen the 3 of us together walking down the stairwell. He took much pleasure in what he saw. “Did you boys have a good night?” he said in an impudent tone, then walked off laughing. I will admit, that was embarrassing! We quickly reached the second guesthouse and she paid the man for another nights stay. She was very happy and thanked us, she even offered us some travel advice, mainly about how Hong Kong and its people are horrible. I guess last nights client didn’t tip.

Looking back, it was quite an experience! Ha ha.

Below I have embedded a video showing the journey from outside the Chungking Mansions all the way up to our guesthouse. Quite a walk, at the end of a busy day it proves quite the challenge!






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